Thousands of accidents occur in the United States on a daily basis, and they lead to a wide range of injuries and losses. To handle a settlement claim yourself, you must identify the at-fault party, establish the duty of care owed you, prove the duty of care was breached, collect evidence to support your claim, evaluate your losses, and submit paperwork to the at-fault party’s insurer or court.
The claims process may involve settlement negotiations or trial, depending on how your case is handled by the insurer and the strength of the evidence you collect.
The Impact of Accidents
An estimated 170,000 people are killed in the United States every year due to preventable and unintentional accidents. These accidents range from slips and falls, workplace and vehicle accident injuries, nursing home abuse, product liability, medical malpractice, and more.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were almost 40 million physician visits in the United States in 2016, and almost 30 million emergency department visits for injuries. These accidents and injuries are estimated to cost society between $150 and $250 billion every year in lost wages, lost workdays, productivity losses, medical treatment costs, and property damage.
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The Settlement Claims Process
If you want to handle a settlement claim yourself, here are the steps to follow.
Identify the At-Fault Party
First, identify the at-fault party. The scenarios below explain how you may be able to identify the at-fault party for your specific case.
- For vehicle accidents, the at-fault party may be a driver (if your injuries were caused by driver negligence), vehicle owner or maintenance team (if your injuries were caused by vehicle malfunction), or a government office (if damaged roads caused or contributed to your accident).
- For nursing home injuries or abuse, a staff member, administrator, or the nursing home may be liable.
- In medical malpractice cases, a doctor, nurse, caregiver, or the hospital or care facility may be liable.
- In slip and fall or workplace accident cases, a property owner or business operator may be at fault for injuries suffered by passers-by or employees on the premises.
Identifying the at-fault party is important because the next steps–proving that the duty of care was breached and collecting evidence–will be based on who you deem responsible.
Evidence Collection and the Duty of Care
You can only file a settlement claim if you can prove the at-fault party identified in the step above owed you a duty of care and breached it, leading to the accident that caused your injuries, damages, or losses. In most cases, anyone on the road owes other road-users a duty of driving safely and responsibly. A doctor owes their patient a duty of knowing how to treat specific conditions. Employers owe their employees a duty of providing safe work environments in accordance with established standards.
Evidence you can use to prove the at-fault party that owed you a duty of care breached that duty can include:
- Police reports, photos, video footage, cellphone data, and eyewitness statements.
- Medical records, physical proof of injuries, or suspicious financial transactions to prove nursing home abuse or injuries. Medical records and the opinion of an expert can also be used in medical malpractice cases.
- Video footage, maintenance logs, or proof of inadequate safety protocols may be used in workplace or construction site accident cases.
Estimate Your Losses
Once you have evidence to prove you were injured because someone who owed you a duty of care did not fulfill the duty via negligence, recklessness, incompetence, or carelessness, you can file a settlement claim with their insurance company. You must first estimate your losses and have a justifiable sum you feel is fair for your injuries and losses.
You can calculate this figure by adding the losses from:
- Lost wages–including lost future wages including lower earning capacity.
- Costs of medical treatment, medications, and rehabilitation.
- Property and/or vehicle damage or repairs.
- Noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering or the loss of a loved one.
Injuries you may suffer in an accident can include:
- Head, brain, back, neck, or spinal cord damage.
- Broken bones, bruises, cuts, and internal bleeding.
- Disfigurement, paralysis, or amputations.
Treating these and similar injuries can be expensive. According to CDC’s Vital Signs, a single vehicle accident can cost between $3,300 and $57,000, depending on the severity of your injuries. If you do not accurately assess your losses and damages, you risk being unable to cover your losses in the long run.
After estimating your losses, you can proceed with filing a claim. You must first submit a letter of intent to sue to the at-fault party’s insurer and provide evidence collected above and justification for your claim. Your claim may be accepted or denied based on the strength of your evidence and arguments. If it is denied, you may have to take the case to court.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm to Learn More Today
At the Sevenish Law Firm, P.C., we work exclusively on personal injury cases. Handling the steps above can be difficult, and any mistakes can negatively impact you and your family. Your claim may be denied if you miss a filing deadline or legal requirements. We do not recommend handling your claim yourself, but first speaking with a reputable personal injury lawyer to determine if an attorney is warranted to protect your interests.
Contact us today at (317) 743-7971 for assistance with your personal injury claim and to avoid the risks and mistakes often seen with self-representation.